FAQs About the Conduct System

What does the Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility (OSCAR) do, and why does it do it?

OSCAR supports the Division of Student Affairs’s mission to promote student success, learning, and wellness. It also supports the University’s mission to provide students with a superior education that inspires and enables them to make positive changes in the world. OSCAR also upholds and promotes UMW’s Statement of Community Values.

OSCAR supports these missions by upholding a Code of Conduct. UMW’s Code of Conduct is a set of conduct expectations. It is intended to facilitate all students’ learning and personal growth within the University and beyond, and to create a community of integrity. Students’ success, their ability to learn, and their wellness should not be negatively impacted by the conduct of other students, or by their own conduct. Students whose actions are found to have been inconsistent with the Code of Conduct are held accountable through a fair and compassionate process in which education, not punishment, is a primary value. OSCAR promotes an environment in which personal growth is facilitated, citizenship is promoted, and sensitivity to others within the community is balanced against each individual student’s need for personal expression. Related to their conduct, UMW students have both rights and responsibilities, and OSCAR assists students in understanding how those rights and responsibilities benefit all members of the UMW community, including themselves.

As human beings, we are all imperfect, and we all make mistakes or bad choices on occasion. OSCAR’s intention is not to shame or humiliate, or to be on a power trip. We do our work compassionately and supportively, with the goal of strengthening students’ relationship with their community, not breaking it.

What is the Code of Conduct?

The Code of Conduct is the set of conduct expectations that we have of all UMW students. These include expectations related to alcohol, drugs (including cannabis), hazing, physical violence, disruptive behavior, property damage, noise in the residence halls, pets in the residence halls, and unauthorized smoking. Although parts of the Code of Conduct are based on federal or state laws, many parts of the Code of Conduct are based on our experiences about what facilitates student success in the UMW community.

What is a pre-hearing conference?

A pre-hearing conference is an opportunity for students who have been charged with violating the Code of Conduct (1) to review available documentation related to the incident (incident reports, etc.), (2) to learn what will happen during the hearing, and (3) to be informed about their rights during the conduct process. Pre-hearing conferences are conducted by a professional staff member–either by the Director of OSCAR or by a Residence Life Area Coordinator.

What is a hearing?

A hearing is simply an opportunity for students charged with violating the Code of Conduct to share their side of the incident. Conduct hearings are coordinated by a hearing officer — a Residence Life Area Coordinator, or the Director of the Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility — or by the Student Conduct Review Board (SCRB). The hearing officer or SCRB asks questions about what happened, and gives the charged student an opportunity to ask incident witnesses questions about what they observed. If the hearing officer or SCRB determines that there is enough evidence to find the charged student in violation, the hearing officer or SCRB will then give a sanction to the charged student.

What standard of evidence is used during hearings?

The hearing officer or board doesn’t need to be 100% sure that a violation occurred for the charged student to be found in violation. The standard of evidence used is “preponderance of evidence.” This means that if the evidence is that it is more likely than not that a violation occurred, then the accused student will be found in violation and receive a sanction.

What is a sanction?

Violations of UMW’s Code of Conduct result in consequences appropriate to the violation. The emphasis is on support and education, not on punishment, although more serious violations could result in more serious sanctions. Sanctions can range from a verbal warning to expulsion from UMW, depending on the violation. Common sanctions include online alcohol education, online cannabis education, research papers, reflection papers, and restrictions on visitation privileges.

Why are the terms “responsible” and “not responsible” used instead of “guilty” and “not guilty”?

“Guilty” and “not guilty” are terms that are associated with the legal system. The conduct process at Mary Washington is educational, not legalistic. While some of the more serious violations of University policy might also result in legal action, the proceedings that take place at the University of Mary Washington are not the same as those in the legal system. Therefore, legal terms are not used. We conduct “hearings” not “trials.” Students are “accused” or “charged,” not “defendants.”

Can I appeal a conduct decision?

You can, if you think that your conduct rights have been violated, if there’s new evidence that had not been available at the time of the hearing, or if you think your sanction is too severe, given the incident. Appeals need to occur within five working days of the hearing. Information about submitting an appeal is included in every outcome letter received by a student following their hearing. Appeals are heard by an appellate board comprised of students, staff, and faculty.

Will this go on my permanent record?

If you are found in violation of UMW’s Code of Conduct, this information will be part of your educational record – not necessarily your transcript – until three years after you leave UMW. (In the case of suspensions or expulsions from the University, this information may be retained for longer.) In general, conduct information is not shared with other individuals (such as parents or potential employers) without your permission. However, there are some exceptions to this: other University officials can receive this information on a need-to-know basis. Also, the law permits colleges and universities to inform parents about violations of the drug and alcohol policy. Some violations of UMW’s Alcohol Policy and Drug Policy will result in parental notification, as long as the student is under the age of 21.

What if I am a student athlete?

If you have been charged with a violation of the Drug Policy or Alcohol Policy you may need to report this to your coach, whether you believe you were in violation or not. Ask your coach for more information.

Is this everything I need to know? 

No. This FAQ page is meant only to answer common questions about UMW’s conduct system. Please review the rest of this site for more information.

We are committed to making the conduct system work for everyone, and we are happy to answer questions and take your suggestions. We want the University of Mary Washington to be a place where you can learn, grow, and have fun at the same time. The policies and procedures are not arbitrary, but reflect both the standards and the needs of the entire UMW community.

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